A Penticton and Arizona-based firearms importer has to pay $25,000 after the business admitted to selling firearm parts without the necessary registration information.
Brasslead Holdings, operating as Aztech Armoury in Penticton and Arizona, entered the plea for breaching the Canadian Competition Act by shipping gun parts without the necessary registration certificate numbers.
In 2018, a Canada Post compliance team identified Desmond McClish in Quebec who was sending large amounts of money via CP money orders to firearm companies in Canada and the US, including Aztech Armoury who received the most orders.
Between December 2016 and September 2018, he sent 12 orders before taking possession of a package in 2019 from Aztech and getting arrested. The package contained 25 Polymer80 lower firearm receivers, which are the controlled components of a handgun. Polymer80 parts are called such because they are effectively 80 per cent of a completed firearm.
These Polymer80s also lacked serial numbers, which can allow for tracing the weapons once complete.
A search warrant found an invoice for the components necessary to assemble five Glock firearms, and a second parcel was seized by Canada post in 2019 with further gun parts including barrels, slides and trigger kits.
McClish was charged in 2019 with gun trafficking charges including manufacturing firearms.
The gun parts were all legally imported by Brasslead Holdings, and prior to sale checked to determine whether the purchasers had a valid Restricted Possession and Acquisition License.
Penticton RCMP executed search warrants on four locations in July, 2019 including the Aztech Armoury warehouse and the homes of the owner, Marshall Witzel, and employee Darius El Masry.
During interviews, Witzel stated that he believed Polymer80s were legal to sell to someone with an RPAL, and that he had attempted to get clarification when the chief firearms officer had visited Aztech Armoury for a premises check. He believed that once the firearm was completed, they needed to contact the chief firearms officer and register it.
From the 55 total Polymer80s sold between Jan 1 and July 18 in 2019, including those sold to McClish, Brasslead Holdings made a profit of $5,695, which accounts for less than one per cent of total business.
Following the searches in 2019, most of the company’s inventory was seized, and the company took further financial hits due to having to refund their customers.
The reputational hit also took the knees out of the company, with the two non-family employees leaving the company and business relationships with other firearms dealers ended over the situation.
According to Crown and defence, there were credible Charter Rights issues involved with the case, and that an application to stay the charges had been filed prior to the plea.
Prior to the guilty plea on behalf of the company, applications to exclude evidence had been applied for by El Masry, Witzel and the company.
Further, defence noted that the firearms trafficking section of the Criminal Code is one of the few exceptions where it requires proof that the individual knew beforehand that what they were doing was breaking the law.
The judge accepted the guilty plea.
“I was amazed at the entrepreneurial spirit in Penticton in the different types of businesses that are going on in our community, and I completely understand how sometimes it can be difficult to stay on top of all the different types of regulations,” the judge said in his closing remarks. “But certainly as one of the persons who was to engage in a very highly regulated type of business, they have a duty and obligation to stay on top of that.”
“I hope that you guys are able to resurrect your business going forward.”
The company will have six months to pay its fine, and will also have to hand over anything to do with the Polymer80s as well as a number of additional firearms.
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